Rabbits truly are great pets. Their cute faces, noses twitching, and irresistible floppy ears, not to mention their wonderful personalities make us love them. However, many don't realize the commitment it takes to properly care for a rabbit. And, as a sad result, many of these cute creatures are surrendered to shelters. So, before you add a bunny to your family, here are some things to consider:
Rabbits require a lot of care. Daily food changes, weekly to twice weekly cage cleaning, and lots of love and attention from every member of the household will be required.
Rabbits can live a considerable length of time. Consider a commitment of 7-10 years for most rabbits. In this time they will need daily exercise and time out of their cage.
Spaying and neutering rabbits is very important. Un-neutered males are prone to bladder disease and behavior issues such as urine marking and aggression. Un-spayed females are 60-80% more likely to develop ovarian, uterine, or other reproductive cancers. In addition, if your rabbits fall in love you could quickly be outnumbered.
Veterinary care for your rabbit will be very important to maintain their health. Dental, dietary, digestive tract, and urinary tract diseases are very common in rabbits. Not every veterinarian treats rabbits, so be sure to find one that is knowledgable in this species. Make yearly checkups for your rabbits until age 5, then twice a year there after.
Rabbits all have their own individual traits and personalities. There are 50 breeds of rabbits recognized in the United States. These can be small, such as Netherland Dwarfs, or up to 20 pounds like the Flemish Giant. Along with size variations, there are countless variations in color, hair length and ear conformation. Some rabbits are very social and will bond with other rabbits, cats and even dogs. Some rabbits just don't get along with others. so, if you are considering one or multiple rabbits, be sure they are compatable with each other and the other members of your family.
Rabbits as pets should be kept indoors in a large, clean cage. Domestic rabbits cannot tolerate very hot or very cold temperatures and can become very stressed if kept in an outdoor environment. Make your rabbit's cage exciting and stimulating to them by having multiple levels, toys, water bottles, and a place for them to hide/sleep in comfort. Rabbit cages should not have wire floors. They can be very irritating to their feet if they do not have a smooth or soft surface area to stand on. Be sure to keep their bedding clean and dry. Most rabbits can be trained to be "house broken" and use a litter box. Never use clumping litter and avoid cedar or pine chips. The CareFresh Brand is good to use. Time out of the cage with interaction and exercise is vitally important to both your rabbit's physical and mental well being.
Diet is very important to the proper care of rabbits. These creatures have a very complex and sensitive digestive system. When not properly balanced this can lead to a miriad of health issues. Hay is a very important source of dietary fiber for rabbits. Timothy hay should be available to your rabbit at all times. Good quality rabbit pellets are another important source of your rabbit's nutritional needs. Pellets should be fed in measured amounts based on your rabbits needs to avoid becoming overweight. Rabbits love leafy greens such as kale, arugula, spinach, watercress, and swiss chard. These should be limited as a "treat" as too much can result in a dangerous diarrhea. Some fruits and veggies are acceptable, but again should be limited.
With the proper preparation, knowledge and care, rabbits can become a devoted, loving member of our family. The staff of Eagle Animal Hospital is dedicated to the health and well being of our rabbit patients. We would be happy to help you with any questions you may have about adding one of these wonderful pets to your family. Call us at (610)458-8789 or visit our website at www.eagleanimalvet.com. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, and the surrounding areas.
written by David Matunis VMD
Veterinarian at Eagle Animal Hospital